Antitrust Law Daily Former currency trader convicted in FX probe seeks to avoid incarceration due to pandemic
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Monday, August 31, 2020

Former currency trader convicted in FX probe seeks to avoid incarceration due to pandemic

By Jeffrey May, J.D.

Akshay Aiyer requests sentence of probation, home confinement not to exceed 364 days; asks that sentencing hearing proceed via teleconferencing as scheduled.

A former JPMorgan Chase & Co. currency trader, who was convicted in November 2019 of conspiring to fix prices for emerging market currencies in the global foreign currency exchange (FX) market, has asked the federal district court in New York City not to impose an incarceratory sentence in light of the risks posed by COVID-19. Akshay Aiyer has requested that court instead sentence him to probation, with a special condition of a period of home confinement not to exceed 364 days. In his August 28 letter to the court, the defendant also asked that his sentencing proceed as currently scheduled on September 17 (U.S. v. Aiyer, Case 1:18-cr-00333-JGK).

Background. In May 2018, a federal grand jury in New York City returned a one-count indictment, charging Aiyer with conspiring to fix prices and rig bids in Central and Eastern European, Middle Eastern and African or CEEMEA currencies, which were generally traded against the U.S. dollar and the euro, from at least October 2010 through at least January 2013. In November 2019, a jury in the federal district court in New York City convicted the defendant. In July 2020, the court denied Aiyer’s motion for a judgment of acquittal or in the alternative for a new trial.

Sentencing is currently scheduled for September 17. Aiyer consented to proceeding with his sentencing by video teleconferencing. The government has consented to proceeding as scheduled and in-person.

Impact of pandemic on sentencing. The letter questions whether it is necessary and productive for the court to give a first-time, non-violent offender like Aiyer an incarceratory sentence—especially given the significant threat that COVID-19 poses to the prison population and the special considerations applicable to him as a non-citizen. The defendant notes the increase in coronavirus cases and points to other instances where defendants have been sentenced to home confinement.

As a non-citizen prisoner, Aiyer would be ineligible to serve any incarceratory sentence in a minimum-security prison, and he would be ineligible to serve any part of such a sentence in a halfway house, according to the letter. Moreover, if Aiyer would be given an incarceratory sentence of one year or more, as distinct from a sentence of less than one year, he also would be far more likely to be held without bail in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention during the pendency of any removal proceedings. Aiyer said that he would contest such proceedings. In seeking to avoid incarceration, Aiyer also notes that the prison system is being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Attorneys: Eric Hoffmann and Kevin Hart for Department of Justice. Martin Klotz (Willkie Farr & Gallagher, LLP) for Akshay Aiyer.

Companies: JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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